Filling a Niche for Local Authors
Steve Strimer says the Pioneer Valley is rich with authors who have something to say, and the traditional publishing world is getting more and more difficult for them to navigate. This set of circumstances was the main catalyst for the print shop Steve works for, Collective Copies, to develop its own publishing company six years ago.
The goal of Levellers Press, which is primarily run by Steve, a 65-year-old Northampton resident, is to give opportunity and support to local authors, which is why Levellers and the worker-owned Collective Copies also created the Off the Common Books imprint, giving authors the option to self-publish.
Janice’s book, Divine Renovations, a memoir about her late husband, was published by Off the Common Books several years ago, and Janice often turns to Steve for support with client book projects. Steve, Levellers and Collective Copies are important Beetle Press partners.
When a manuscript is selected for publishing through either Levellers of Off the Common Books, authors can also opt to hire Levellers staff to take on the layout, design and early stages of marketing on their behalf, in addition to printing.
In the Collective Copies and Levellers shops, in Northampton and Amherst respectively, many of Levellers and Off the Common Books titles are available for sale, and most books are now available in Kindle, Nook, and Google Play digital versions.
Once the “start-up costs” have been recouped, Levellers Press and its authors share the surplus on each book 50/50. Thanks to the authors’ local reputations and network of friends and family, a Levellers’ title can break even within the first few months, Steve says.
Still, Steve says Levellers’ methods are a bit unconventional as it has no national distributor due to the small-batch printing technique; books are printed on demand, between 25 and 200 at a time, based on need, making it difficult, cost-wise, to distribute on a larger scale.
To date, Levellers has published 60 books—and of those, only two are from outside of Western Mass—and Steve plays a large role in the manuscripts that are chosen. Some of the biggest selling titles are The Curse by Robert H. Steele, The Wealth of the Commons: A World Beyond Market and State, and Slavery in the Connecticut Valley of Massachusetts, by Robert Romer. Romer’s title was the first title released by Levellers.
The name of the press derives from the Levellers in England who, during the period of Cromwell’s England, fought for extended suffrage and equal rights under the law.
Steve has been in the publishing industry for a long time, starting off at the Daily Hampshire Gazette in 1973 as a “pre-press guy.” He learned a great deal about the printing process and eventually started the worker-cooperative Common Wealth Printing in 1977. In 1997, he needed a change and became more interested in digital printing, joining Collective Copies, a worker-owned collective.
Levellers continues to branch out and grow; it is in the process of creating two new imprints at the moment. For poetry, Hedgerow Books is taking off with approximately one or two manuscripts per year. Thornapple Books is taking submissions from all across the country on the hunt for the next great American novel.
For more information, visit Levellers Press online!